One of the defining toy lines of my youth was Kenner’s Dark Knight Collection. Starting a while after the original 1989 Batman movie’s release, Kenner jumped into the world of Batman toys after a brief hiatus from the DC license. Toy Biz actually held the rights to Batman when the 1989 blockbuster hit, but lost them fairly quickly as it was apparent they had no idea what they were doing. Still I suspect everyone who grew up in my age bracket had those Toy Biz Batman & Joker figures.

Kenner always got major props from me for releasing movie accurate Joker and Batman figures, even a great likeness of Keaton as Bruce Wayne, despite the movie having already been out for a while. 1990 was a big year for Kenner’s Batman line and I had almost everyone, except the plain black Batman. Not that I felt any great loss, because I had the awesome blue and gray variants (along with some special suits like the Artic Batman) to get plenty of play time.

When Batman Returns came out just a couple years later, Kenner had managed to keep the line alive the whole time and thus, the Batman Returns figures just continued that same toy line. It was on a fateful adventure to K-Mart one day that I noticed both Catwoman and Robin figures. I bought them and never saw them again.

Catwoman was a great likeness to the movie character, unlike the Penguin who had been a repainted Super Powers figure. I quite liked that Penguin figure, even if he wasn’t terribly accurate. Apparently Danny Devito’s Penguin was too scary for kids or Kenner was rushed and had no idea what the movie Penguin was going to look like and needed a Penguin figure for their toy line. I say that because Kenner made the Animated Batman Penguin figure and he looked the same as Devito’s.

But that’s a story for another day, this is about Robin. See Robin was a great surprise to have in the old Kenner Batman Returns line. Partially because Kenner mostly made Batman and variants, so a villain or civilian was a big coup. Heck you had to use Toy Biz’s Bob The Goon to have any generic thugs. Perhaps the even bigger shocker about the Robin figure was that, well… Robin wasn’t in Batman Returns!

I remember as a kid hearing rumblings that Damon Wayans was supposed to play Robin. Of course you have to remember, this was the early 1990’s, before there was an internet. Movie rumors and stuff came purely from magazines and word of mouth. They were legit rumors, whispered about in comic shops and toy aisles. As it turns out, that’s partially true.

Marlon not Damon, Wayans reportedly signed on to play Robin. I suspect I heard the rumor about it being Damon Wayans in the role, because nobody on the planet knew who Marlon Wayans was until at least 1996, when “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood” came out. Heck you could argue that he wasn’t even known until a few years after that when the Wayans Brothers began releasing their jihad on cinema. Way back then Damon Wayans was the famous one. With minor nods to Keenan Ivory, of course.

Right, so about that Robin figure… Well Kenner had obviously gotten advanced word that Robin was going to make a brief appearance in Batman Returns, as a streetwise kid who helps Batman fix the Batmobile. Setting up his larger role in the upcoming Batman & Robin movie. Wayans seems like a bizarre choice, but remember that freaking Billy Dee Williams was cast as Harvey Dent, so all bets were off. Anywho, Kenner figured it was important to have a Robin on the shelf for the Batman Returns figures and got to work on a Robin.

Wayans never suited up as Robin, he never filmed scenes and apparently he wasn’t even going to be in costume, so the Kenner figure is a bit of a mystery. Did Kenner actually have some early sketches of Robin, or did they make up their own direction to go with him? Who knows. What I do know is that the Robin figure is actually quite good and remains perhaps as one of the best Robins to see release in many years. I loved him as a kid, even if Robin wasn’t in the movie.

Urban legend says that Kenner had to turn Robin white at the last minute, since Wayans ended up not in the movie and Robin had traditionally been white otherwise in media. I’m not certain I believe that it was some 11th hour pigment change. What’s more likely is that by the time Wayans was cut from the script, Kenner had made the molds but not actually started pumping out figures just yet. Robin looks nothing like Wayans but he does have a “box” haircut that does seem to indicate that perhaps the figure was intended to be black.

Whatever the case, this Robin is one of the cooler figures in the line and welcome edition to the Dark Knight Collection. This Robin is also all that remains of a potential Boy Wonder in the Batman sequel. I’m thankful for this Robin figure and even more thankful that Marlon Wayans didn’t end up in the Burton Batman movies, even if he does get residual checks for them. Robin has always been a tough sell in the movies, but had the character looked like this toy I think he would have worked.

10 Responses to Focus On: Batman Returns Robin

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    Robin's costume is definitely based on Tim Drake's new outfit, which was designed by Neal Adams. That, in turn was inspired by a design Adams drew in the 70's for the teenaged Dick Grayson. It ended up being used by the Earth-2 Robin instead. I loved this figure (and its soft goods/cloth cape) as well, seeing how it came out just as Tim Drake was being established as the new Robin in the comics. What always bugged me was how Billy Dee never got to play Two-Face. A new Kenner figure of Mr. Coolness himself would have rocked!

  • NoisyDvL5 says:

    I don't think DKC gets enough props. Even I forget what an awesome toy line it was sometimes. This Robin was a particular favorite of mine too. Even though he wasn't posed 'extreme', I used him and the MOS Superboy as Total Justice subs since that line had a bad Robin and an awful Superboy.

    I'm glad to see someone else thinking about the line. I was reminiscing a few weeks back when I ran across my Penguin Jet.

  • This line is probably still my favorite Batman line. It had everything I wanted. BTAS line is close, though. I hd a bunch of the Toy Biz Batman villains to help supplement the DKC toy line as well.

  • Yeah that would have rocked! I always wondered how Billy Dee's Two-Face would have worked out. I heard that Burton wanted him in Returns (Dent, not Two-Face) but once the Penguin plot was added in Shreck took the role that Dent was supposed to play.

  • clark says:

    I remember the first time I learned of Marlon was when I saw "Mo Money" with my brother. I still can't picture him as Robin, though. The only robin figure I ever had was the Super Powers figure, which was cool for the time. I briefly owned the DCUC version, but upon removing him from the package and testing his joints his bicep twisted clean off. So I returned him and did not replace him due to my lack of enthusiasm over his super beefy upper body.
    Still waiting for a great Robin figure today.

  • I had the Super Powers one, but once I got this one, I turned him into a zombie. Back from the dead trying to kill Batman.

  • erie word says:

    Robin was sposed to be a colored kid, but they changed the design to fit a white boy.

  • Darren says:

    Warner bros. wanted Robin in the second film. They then commissioned DC Comics to design the outfit to be used in the comics for the current Robin Tim Drake to wear to further generate buzz. Once the suit was a hit WB gave the go ahead for Robin in Returns. The only reason why that outfit was designed was because it was intended to be the movie suit. With the many rewrites the Returns script overwent, Robin simply became a young black mechanic named Richard with an R on the back of his overalls. Kenner was given designs from DC to create the figure before his changes by Waters and the ultimate deletion altogether. Robin was probably in production long before the removal of the character and therefore with a lot of money spent and an obviously popular revamp in the comics Kenner released the figure anyway.

  • excellent post, I was so excited to get this figure when it came out as well. I too heard all of the Wayans rumors when I was young. Also – I must say…I loved the BR Penguin figure. I think that's how Pengy should have looked in the actual BR film. He definitely shouldn't have been as gross.

  • Yeah I've heard the story of him being a mechanic.

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